Darien boys tennis tops Staples for repeat FCIAC championship

WILTON — It took two years, but the Darien boys tennis team finally had the chance to defend its FCIAC crown. It didn’t let the opportunity escape.

In a repeat performance, the second-seeded Blue Wave toppled No. 1 seed Staples to claim the FCIAC championship 4-0 on Tuesday in Wilton

Senior Ethan Zhang nailed down the final point for Darien when he defeated Staples’ Brandon Felcher in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 at second singles.

It was deja vu for Zhang, who was a sophomore when his win at No. 4 singles clinched the Wave’s title in 2019.

“I definitely knew that I was going to be one of the ones that would decide it because I could see a lot more people gathering around,” Zhang said. “But I definitely did not know I was the last one until they all rushed the court.”

Staples had beaten Darien 4-3 on April 22, but the Wave rebounded with 13 straight wins while getting ready to see the Wreckers again.

“We’ve been gearing up for this match for the last three weeks,” Darien coach Hugh Underhill said. “We knew if we were going to beat such a great team, we had to make some changes. The boys worked hard to make those changes and they snuck this one out.”

“It was definitely a competitive match,” Staples coach Kris Hrisovulos said. “You expect Darien to come out with that extra energy and we came up short with executing. The moment got a little big. They fought but ultimately Darien is a proven winner and never gave us room to turn the match around.”

While the matches featured many long points and some close sets, the Wave was able to wrap it up as a shutout.

Darien sophomore Kyle Patrick defeated Staples senior Lucas Haymes 6-2, 6-4 at fourth singles, and the Wave tandem of freshman Ryan Benoit and sophomore Anders Mueller defeated junior Matthew Chiang and Josh Suggs 7-5, 6-3 at third doubles for a 2-0 lead.

Junior Anders Hansen and freshman Will Donnelly topped seniors Alex Miller and Jake Motyl 6-0, 3-6, 6-0 at second doubles to put Darien one win away, setting up Zhang for the clincher.

Senior Chris Calderwood, who was locked in a battle at No. 1 singles with Staples’ Tighe Brunetti, the FCIAC MVP, said the players weren’t sure what to expect this season after not playing last spring, but the victory made it a special year.

“We came here to do our best and battle it out,” Calderwood said. “It was just our team spirit and our hard work really prevailed today. They played great as well, but our guys proved they have what it takes. We knew we could do it, we knew we could win.”

Darien and Staples are now heading to separate state tournaments, with Staples seeded No. 1 in Class LL, and Darien seeded No. 2 behind Daniel Hand in Class L.

“There’s still an opportunity to win another trophy,” Hrisovulos said. “At the end of the day, the preseason goals were to win some trophies. We came up a little short in the conference tournament but to win a state tournament would still speak volumes. We’ll have to regroup and get back to it.”

QUOTABLE

“This means everything to us. Last year, we really wanted to get out there but we couldn’t. So this is just us releasing all of the pent-up joy that we feel for this sport.” — Darien senior Ethan Zhang

david.stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports

No. 2 DARIEN 4, No. 1 STAPLES 0

Singles: Chris Calderwood (D) vs. Tighe Brunetti DNF; Ethan Zhang (D) def. Brandon Felcher 6-2, 6-2; Sam Donnelly (D) vs. Robbie Daus (S) DNF; Kyle Patrick (D) def. Lucas Haymes 6-2, 6-4: Doubles: Alex de Castro/Teddy Callery (D) vs. Bradley Sheppard/Luke Brodsky (S) DNF; Anders Hansen/Will Donnelly (D) def. Alex Miller/Jake Motyl 6-0, 3-6, 6-0; Ryan Benoit/Anders Mueller (D) def. Matthew Chiang/Josh Suggs 7-5, 6-3.

Records: Darien 18-1, Staples 18-1